Sunday, November 15, 2009

In Japan you can glimpse the future

When I first visited Japan in 2004 I saw the future - trains, gadgets, vending machines - but most importantly, I saw some amazing toilets. Even now, when I have a conversation with people returning from Japan they always comment about toilets. If you’ve visited Japan you would know why – they range from traditional squatters, to high tech digital robots. The most best of them all will greet you, automatically lift the lid, warm your seat, wash and dry your backside, play your favourite music, and flush automatically.

Back in 2004 I saw one particular style that was simple and profoundly efficient, where the cistern was filled via a basin so that you could wash your hands with clean water, and then use that same water to flush the toilet.

At the time I saw a market for such a design in Australia. I visited Japanese kitchen and bathroom stores to see the price range for these types of toilets, and investigated possible shipping costs. Alas, I became distracted and never followed through with this idea.

Now it seems that popular toilet maker Caroma is making these very toilets in Australia and the US. Only 25 years after their invention in Japan.

For anyone who likes the idea but is not interested in buying a new toilet, you can get a step by step guide to retrofitting your own throne to have this functionality here.

As an economist I wonder why it took the market so long to adopt this simple innovation in our water starved nation.  Was everyone simply as bad as I am at following through their ideas?  Was there a stigma in Australia about washing your hands with 'toilet water'?  Now that it is available here in Australia, will it even catch on?


  1. Kind of ugly and awkward to use - fix that and it might work here...

    What do men do after the urinal...???

  2. It's actually quite easy. You just stand beside to the toilet and wash away. You can even offset the cistern from the bowl to make it easier (but shortage of space is a bit of a problem in Japan).

    You have a urinal in your house?

  3. Taiwan has lots of Japanese-style things, but not these sensible cisterns, for some reason. In fact Taiwanese cisterns are junk - no wonder we keep having water shortages despite all the rain.